Wake – Thought Form Descent Review

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes, before I write a review, I read the ones already out there for the album in question. This is after I’ve heard the album a few times, and I do it for a few reasons, curiosity being one. Now, there are writers who solemnly proclaim, pearls fully clutched, that they would never taint their process with such unprofessionalism. I get that. But I also get that you inconstant, two-timing jilts will also read those other reviews, and I don’t like being redundant with mine. So, having read a couple reviews for Wake‘s fifth full-length Thought Form Descent, I’ve decided NOT to write an intro paragraph along the lines of “Boy howdy, these Wake bois sure do keep evolving, man alive.” Instead, here’s an obscure anime reference that I promise no one else has used. You know how in End of Evangelion, all the people in the world lose their AT fields and dissolve into orange liquid and merge into a giant version of Rei, the clone of Shinji’s mother? Thought Form Descent is kind of like that. 

Hm? Oh, that wasn’t helpful? Let’s put it another way. You know when you make enough soup for days of leftovers and over time individual elements break down into a savory slurry so that rice resembles ground beef resembles carrot resembles green bean? Wake once played straight grindcore (with considerable talent). With each album, more elements were added: doom, black metal, progressive death metal, until we got 2020’s Devouring Ruin, which I loved. There were a lot of moving parts, but it featured natural transitions between styles. Thought Form Descent has finally dispensed with the grind altogether, and those once clear stylistic barriers have collapsed like so many bean and carrot skins into a near constant up-tempo blackened progressive death metal. There are, however, a few moments, like on “Venerate (The Undoing of All)” and standout track “Bleeding Eyes of the Watcher” that wouldn’t be out of place on Devouring Ruin.

The band is as nimble as ever on their instruments and this is a fine-sounding album, but I’m not nearly as enamored with it as I was with their previous effort. In isolation, each six-to-nine-minute blackened, gradually evolving blast can be exhilarating, but Thought Form Descent suffers from a uniformity issue, especially over the first half. There’s a new commitment to underlying melody, but even as this sometimes counters the busy-ness of the other instrumentation, it’s just as often swallowed by it. There are short instrumentals in the form of interlude “Pareidolia” and closer “The Translation of Deaths” that help alleviate the blackened blast overload, but I’ll direct you all the way back to the first paragraph of my first n00b review to remind you how I generally feel about such tracks.

These hang-ups aside, Wake still turns in some fine material here. Even in the midst of an almost unrelenting intensity, Thought Form Descent manages at times to find an even higher gear for chills-inducing moments, like midway through “Mourning Dirge (Repose of the Dead)” or the ending of “Venerate (The Undoing of All).” “Venerate” also stands out as one of the few tracks that drops the blackened riffing almost entirely, allowing a straight progressive death metal sound to emerge. Wake‘s natural talent for tight compositions shines through here, as it does on my personal favorite track, the mammoth “Bleeding Eyes of the Watcher.” While I wouldn’t call it a doom track, there are certainly traces of doom working as a foil and compliment to the fevered pace always just around the corner. 

Thought Form Descent is a big album. It crosses the 50-minute mark, a first for the band, but it also sounds huge. I definitely miss the days when they kept their various stylistic influences distinct but complementary, before everyone on Earth dissolved into a giant Rei, to go with my first shamelessly weeb-y analogy, but there are plenty of folks who will no doubt enjoy this one a touch more than I did.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: wakegrind.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wakegrind
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2022

« »